Astronaut conducts perception of gravity test for York’s Vection Project

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques has recently returned home after a busy mission on the International Space Station (ISS), where in addition to a successful spacewalk, he contributed to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA)/York University Vection Project.

Image shows the embroidered Vection logo patch floating on board the ISS above earth

Image shows the embroidered Vection logo patch floating on board the ISS above earth (image: Canadian Space Agency/NASA)

The Vection project is a Canadian science experiment that uses virtual reality (VR) to examine how microgravity affects astronauts’ perception of their motion. The project is led by York University’s Professor Laurence Harris (principal investigator) and Professors Michael Jenkin and Robert Allison (co-investigators) with graduate student Meaghan McManus and post-doctoral fellow Nils-Alexander Bury – all members of the Vision: Science to Applications (VISTA) project.

Vection, explains Harris, is the sense of self-motion that can be created by visual motion. The project also assesses how lack of gravity may affect an astronaut’s perception of distance, and whether visual motion can be used to create transient artificial gravity.

Conducted simultaneously with hundreds of visitors to the Ontario Science Centre, Saint-Jacques tested his perception of motion using a VR headset and York-designed program. Back on earth, Saint-Jacques is repeating the study to compare his sense of vection upon returning to normal gravity with his perception before he left, and while he was in the weightlessness of space.

Astronaut Anne McClain is also part of the project, said Harris, and will be tested in the same session as Saint-Jacques. The team of researchers hopes to include a total of seven astronauts in the study.

Vection will conduct its testing between 2018-22.

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